Magic Play Dough

Engineering Area
Design & Prototyping
Group or Individual
Group, Individual
Amount of People
Up to 15, 15-25
Type of Class
Duration of Activity
Between half an hour and one hour, Between one and two hours
Type of Activity
Collaborative team setting, On-line Classroom activity, Self-work by students


What is this technique about

The Magic Play Dough technique can be used for the detailed design and prototyping session in the engineering process. As the name suggests, the dough is ideal for students to form their thoughts and ideas into physical evidence for further use and development. By prototyping using magic play dough, students are also able to see if their ideas are achievable or if it needs corrections. 

Where does it come from 

Dseign prototyping is a common methodology that is used during nearly all product, service, and systems development efforts, both for ideation and for changing ideas (Camburn et al., 2005).

For which purposes it is used (why in your engineering teaching)

Most of the engineering prototyping takes place in an advanced digital program. Therefore, physical prototyping using magic play dough can supplement and change the outcome of the design. Students might gain new ideas on how the prototype will look in real life and discover new additions to the design – the magic play dough allows the students to think of alternatives.

How to use it

Find or follow the recipe of the magic play dough provided under 4.2. When the dough is ready, take a cloth and start forming the idea or solution based on previous steps in the engineering process. When done prototyping, ask the students to put the dough in the oven and follow the guidelines from the recipe.

How to implement this technique online

Preparation, what do before the session

  1. Let the students know to prepare the dough beforehand.
  2. Provide them with the recipe (see 4.2) at least a week in (they will need to go shopping…) at least a week before.

During application, i.e., while giving the session

  1. Introduce the students to the purpose and the process of the exercise.
  2. Ask the students to make their prototype or idea. 
  3. As this is a good way for the students to do self-work, minimize the interactions between teacher and student so they do not get disturbed. Still, give them a time frame (e.g., 30 minutes).
  4. When the time is over, tell the students to put their designs in the oven and follow the recipe.
  5. Have a reflection session in the end: How was this exercise (easy/ difficulties…) – let the students share experiences.
  6. Tell the students to bring their prototype for the next session (or pictures of it if there is a too-long distance between the sessions).

Follow-up, about what to do after the session

  1. Ask the students to present their prototype during the next session.

Examples and/or testimonials

Example of the magic dough recipe

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup fine salt
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 1 tbsp. cooking oil
  1. Mix all ingredients (use a food processor if necessary)
  2. Knead the dough together until it is smooth and pliable
  3. Now you must model – make your sculptures. Optional: Use extruders. You can make (almost) everything from the magic dough, just like modeling wax
  4. If your figures are to be hung on the wall when they are finished, you must have a hanger made. You do this by making a small ring of steel wire that you attach to the back of the dough (as far inside as possible)
  5. When your shapes are done, bake them. Bake them at 120 degrees for about 3 hours
  6. You can test if they are done by knocking on them, then it should sound hollow
  7. Once your shapes are baked, they should be completely cooled

Tools needed

You will need a platform to share screens and communicate with the participants, such as: MS Teams, Zoom or similar. As well as access to a shared document (Google doc, Word etc.)

    • Ingredients from the recipe at the place of the participants
    • Tools described in the recipe (e.g., bowl, spoon, or food processor, oven) at the place of the participants



Magic Play Dough recipe:


Lemon, S. (2015, July 17). How to Make Play Dough – Easy No Cook Recipe! | Sea Lemon [Video]. YouTube.


Camburn, B., Viswanathan, V., Linsey, J., Anderson, D., Jensen, D., Crawford, R., … & Wood, K. (2017). Design prototyping methods: state of the art in strategies, techniques, and guidelines. Design Science, 3.